How did 'The Children of Húrin' come about?

The Children of Húrin, begun in 1918, was one of three ‘Great Tales’ J.R.R. Tolkien worked on throughout his life, though he never realised his ambition to see it published in his lifetime. Some of the text will be familiar to fans from extracts and references within other Tolkien books but this is the first time the entire story has been presented in its complete form.

As Adam Tolkien elaborated in a recent interview: ‘This is a more difficult question than it seems: As you know, versions and pieces of the story of Húrin and his descendants have been published in various works (The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales, The Lays of Beleriand, etc). The text of The Children of Húrin is in part compiled from these extant texts, and particularly that which appears in Unfinished Tales.

‘But it is a new reworking of the complete story. Many parts of the text will be – if not identical – recognizable to the knowledgeable reader, but there are also pieces that have never appeared before. Also the format of the text, as a standalone and complete text with no editorial commentary to interrupt the tale, should in itself and in my opinion considerably transform the reading experience.

‘The text as a whole can be said to be “new” as it is a recomposition of published texts and other “pieces” that weren’t published previously. The completed puzzle, in a sense.’

Christopher Tolkien has painstakingly edited together the complete work from his father’s many drafts, and this book is the culmination of a tireless thirty-year endeavour by him to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s vast body of unpublished work to a wide audience.

Christopher Tolkien says: “It has seemed to me for a long time that there was a good case for presenting my father’s long version of the legend of The Children of Húrin as an independent work, between its own covers, with a minimum of editorial presence, and above all in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions, if this could be done without distortion or invention, despite the unfinished state in which he left some parts of it.”

Having drawn the distinctive maps for The Lord of the Rings more than 50 years ago, Christopher has also created a detailed new map for this book.

Adam continues: ‘The text of The Children of Húrin is entirely in the author’s (so J.R.R. Tolkien’s) words – apart from very minor reworkings of a grammatical and stylistic nature. Christopher’s work has been to produce a text that is a faithful rendition of his father’s writings – using many sources spaced out over decades.’

From a review of ‘Hurin’ on

Another review:
This is a tale of unrelenting tragedy. Drawn from the history of the First Age of Middle-earth, it tells of how Morgoth, the original Dark Lord to whom Sauron was but a lieutenant, wreaked appalling vengeance upon the family of the man Hurin, chiefly for his refusal to betray a great hidden city of the elves who were his allies. Readers acquainted with the story from a more summary version published three decades earlier in THE SILMARILLION will have some idea what to expect. They will also understand the part these events ultimately did play in the fall of virtually every elven kingdom in the vast land of Beleriand before it sank beneath the sea, still millennia prior to the events recounted in THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

From a review on Amazon by Edward Waters.

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